Summary: You can speed up decisions by incorporating user research into your design work early on. How fast you go depends on how much you know about your users.
How to increase the speed of a design project
Designs are created at speed. While efficiency is important, precision is just as critical. Knowing what you are designing or developing is the most significant risk you can manage regarding wasted time. Learning how to align your design decisions with user research outcomes can accelerate your process while meeting user needs.
Note- This ties to Jared Spool’s emphasis on using UX outcomes as business goals. However, I am talking about what outcomes you gather from user research specifically. In an insights-driven organization, your UX business outcomes should follow those insights.
Aligning your design decisions with user research outcomes can accelerate your process while meeting user needs.
Aligning design decisions with user constraints and opportunities
In “UX”, the X stands for experience or design. Most people get that. The U stands for the needs of the user or user research. Most managers undervalue that. Why is the U so important? User research brings the power of rapid ethnography to deliver an understanding of the stress surrounding your product or service. This stress can be physical, social, emotional, or historical. For example, if your users use your product in the dark with one hand, you need to know that (glowing icons, anyone?).
So, the first step to speeding up design (decisions) is to understand user constraints and opportunities.
What slows UX design projects down…and when you find it, increases the speed of a design project?
A lack of user research is the leading cause of slow design work. At Experience Dynamics, if we haven’t done user research, it takes longer to design. Why? We’re guessing. Or is it “empathizing” based on assumptions?
Design process slows when product managers or folks responsible for designs do not have evidence of “must-haves” vs “nice-to-haves”. Must-haves or ‘desirability’ are the essential elements your product or service must encompass to fulfill its core purpose. Meeting user needs and desires overshadows usability: Who cares if it’s easy if you don’t need it?
Must-have desirability criteria are the non-negotiable features, layouts, and more that directly address user needs and are often tied to context of use. In contrast, nice-to-haves are additional features or tasks that enhance the user experience but are not essential for the core functionality.
User research plays a vital role in discerning between must-haves and nice-to-haves. When conducted effectively, it can provide you with valuable insights into user preferences, pain points, and priorities. This information is the key to making informed decisions about what features should take precedence in your design process. The faster you know this, the speedier your decisions, allowing design to move faster.
Market research is inadequate for UX design, as are focus groups and surveys used alone.
Realistic insights lead to faster design decisions
To increase the speed of your design process, it’s crucial to gather realistic insights from user research. Realistic insights accurately reflect user behavior, expectations, and needs within the specific context of use. Here’s three things to remember:
1. Select the right research approach
Choosing the appropriate research methods is critical to obtaining realistic insights. Consider blending techniques such as ethnographic research with surveys, user interviews, or usability testing. You can better deep dive into user behavior using the proper methods.
2. Prioritize context of use
Always look for context of use when conducting user research. Understanding where, when, and how users interact with your product or service can uncover valuable insights. For example, a user on the go may have different user needs than one who sits at their desk all day.
Oh, and be sure to Explain Ease of Use vs Context of use to your boss
3. Analyze data thoughtfully
Collecting data is just the first step; the real magic happens during data analysis. Look for patterns, trends, and pain points that emerge from your research. Based on these findings, prioritize the must-haves, ensuring that your design decisions are grounded in user realities.
The Bottom line
Delivering design fast is not just about creating beautiful interfaces– but understanding and solving real problems and meeting user needs. By embracing constraints and opportunities identified through user research, you can achieve speed with efficiency and precision in your design process. Product teams can define their MVP (Minimum Viable Product) as an MDP (Minimum Desirable Product) to emphasize that desirability is the key design decision variable.